Las luchadoras vs el robot asesino (1969)

aka The Wrestling Women versus the Murderous Robot
Article 5038 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-3-2016
Directed by Rene Cardona
Featuring Joaquin Cordero, Regina Torne, Hector Lechuga
Country: Mexico
What it is: More Mexican wrestling antics

A mad scientist uses a robot to kidnap other scientists in order to force them to work on a project to turn people into human robots. Can the wrestling women and their police boyfriends stop him?

I found this one on YouTube without English dubbing or subtitles, so I had to get a few of the plot details from other sources. That’s not to say that the movie would have been impenetrable without those sources; if you’ve seen other movies from the wrestling women series, you know what to expect and this one doesn’t vary the formula a whole lot. In fact, it’s at least partially a remake of the first one in the series, DOCTOR OF DOOM. The wrestling women are different in this one (no Gloria Venus or the Golden Rubi), and the new ones aren’t quite as memorable. They still have police boyfriends, and one of them is still broad comic relief. The movie mostly consists of the scientist sending out the robot to kidnap/kill someone, and the robot goes out and kills/kidnaps someone. Nevertheless, this is about as entertaining as the series ever got. Oddly enough, this one is devoid of the musical numbers or nightclub scenes that were common to the form. Incidentally, the doctor also keeps a monster with an ugly face in a cage in the cellar, and this creature features prominently in the two dumbest scenes in the movie. In the first, a female nurse tempts the monster by hitching up her skirt and adjusting her stockings in front of him, then she unlocks the cage and turns her back on the monster. The second one has the scientist ordering the monster to break the chain holding him in the cage, which the creature easily does. This leads to the question – why lock up a creature with a chain that you know it can break?

Lulu (1962)

LULU (1962)
Article 5034 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-30-2015
Directed by Rolf Thiele
Featuring Nadja Tiller, O.E. Hasse, Hildegard Knef
Country: Austria
What it is: Drama

A sexy but irresponsible woman uses her allure on a number of lovers who are destroyed by her attentions.

For those who haven’t figured it out from the title and the plot description, this is a remake of G.W. Pabst’s silent classic, PANDORA’S BOX. It’s a fairly good movie; there’s some creative cinematography, especially in the early scenes of the movie, and Nadja Tiller gives a good performance as the femme fatale of the title. However, it does pale in comparison to the original film, at least partially because it doesn’t achieve the brilliant heights of both Pabst’s direction and Louise Brooks’ performance from the earlier film. Still, there are some striking scenes of decadence at work here, and Hildegard Knef is memorable as a countess who is herself in love with Lulu, but whose attentions are not returned. Again, the fantastic content is rather minimal; like the original movie, this one only gets through the genre door via the fact that the plot involves Jack the Ripper in the final moments, adding a touch of horror to the proceedings.

The Lucifer Complex (1978)

Article 5015 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-11-2015
Directed by Kenneth Hartford and David L. Hewitt
Featuring Robert Vaughn, Merrie Lynn Ross, Keenan Wynn
Country: USA
What it is: What happens when you don’t quite have enough footage for a full feature and someone comes along and fixes it

A guy in a cave watches footage of a spy uncovering a Nazi plot in 1986.

I’ve been unable to get any other confirmation of this, but the John Stanley guide says it looks like an unsold TV pilot was padded to feature length and then sold directly to television. Two thirds of the movie is dedicated to a story about a spy played by Robert Vaughn uncovering a plot by Nazis to start a Fourth Reich through the use of cloning. All the big names in the cast are in this section, and I believe this part was the pilot. The other third has a guy wandering around an island and then sitting at a computer in a cave watching this movie along with lots of stock footage. The two-thirds of the movie with Vaughn is pretty bad; it’s cheap, unconvincing, silly, and it’s easy to see why it wouldn’t have sold if it was a pilot. But at least it works up a modicum of energy, which is more than the island/computer footage manages to do; this latter footage is almost totally worthless. Worse still, it’s that footage that kicks off the movie; the first 25 minutes of the movie is one of the driest, most interminable stretches of cinematic wasteland that you are likely to encounter, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many people watching this movie gave up after a few minutes. The movie apparently garnered some criticism for the Nazi/clones plot due to its similarity to THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, and though it’s tempting to point out that since this movie had actually been made two years earlier in 1976, it actually predated the other movie, but that would be overlooking the fact that it still fails to predate the Ira Levin book on which the latter movie was based. At any rate, this movie is a waste of time, and I have to say that despite the fact that I’m a fan of Keenan Wynn, he has a seriously embarrassing role in this one.

The Little Prince (1974)

Article 5014 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-10-2015
Directed by Stanley Donen
Featuring Richard Kiley, Steven Warner, Joss Ackland
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Allegorical fantasy musical.

A pilot, his child-like sense of wonder squashed when he was young, becomes stranded in the Sahara desert. There he encounters a little prince from a distant planet, whose confusion about his love for a rose causes him to set out to learn about the world.

I’ve not read the fanciful novel on which this movie was based, so I can’t make any comparison as to how successful it has been adapted. I do sense, however, that the choice to make this a musical was a compromise to compensate for the fact that the book may have been unfilmable. I remember when it was released, but I don’t recall it having been a big hit. One of the user comments on IMDB ponders as to why this movie has never become a perennial children’s favorite, but I suspect the reason it hasn’t is because it really isn’t a children’s movie; it’s central themes seem to be of more interest to adults. My wife, who has read the book, also told me that there is a dark undercurrent to the book that is lost in the conversion of the story to a musical. Maybe that’s why the movie feels less than satisfying, though the fact that the songs aren’t very memorable has something to do with it. Nonetheless, there are some interesting performances here, particularly from Bob Fosse as the Snake and Gene Wilder as the Fox. I do get the feeling that if I ever opt to experience this one again, I’ll go for the book.

The Legend of Bigfoot (1976)

Article 5011 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-7-2015
Directed by Harry Winer
Featuring Ivan Marx, Peggy Marx, Yukon Frida
Country: USA
What it is: Cryptozoology documentary or pseudo-documentary

A tracker tells of his obsession of finding and photographing Bigfoot.

I am not a cryptozoologist. Nor am I a debunker of cryptozoological theories. I am merely a guy who watches movies and writes about them, and my given genre ground just happens to include movies about Bigfoot, whether they purport to be documentaries or not. I will admit that I’m the type of person who thinks it would be cool if Bigfoot really did exist, but I make no claim about whether that is so or not. Therefore, when I say that I found this movie to be one of the more interesting documentaries I’ve encountered on the subject, it’s not to say that it’s the most convincing; it’s more to say that it was entertaining and personable. Instead of emphasizing evidence for the existence of the creature, it concentrates on one man’s desire to track the creature down and photograph him, with the belief that the resulting footage will be proof enough. And, on the level of storytelling, I was entertained. However, I do take note that the script credits two writers, neither of which is Ivan Marx, the man whose story is being told, a detail which does cast a bit of doubt on the proceedings. Furthermore, I was curious enough to do a little research on Marx, and he is definitely a controversial figure in the world of cryptozoology, and if an article I read from Peter Byrne about him is any indication, then his Bigfoot footage is not to be accepted as authentic. I will, however, make one comment of my own. The most entertaining part of this movie involves footage of the one of the most impressive moose I have ever seen. It is a very clearly photographed moose, and nobody doubts it existed, as far as I know. In contrast, the Bigfoot footage is relatively murky and lacking in detail. If the Bigfoot had been as well photographed as the moose, maybe it would have been more convincing.

Land of Doom (1986)

Article 5010 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-6-2015
Directed by Peter Maris
Featuring Deborah Rennard, Garrick Dowhen, Daniel Radell
Country: USA
What it is: Recycled ROAD WARRIOR ideas

It’s after the apocalypse. A cynical young woman teams up with a man who still believes in the old values to find a save haven from a roving band of sadistic raiders. They encounter eccentrics, plague victims, and many people wearing studded leather.

This movie borrows as much as it can from THE ROAD WARRIOR, runs over to STAR WARS and borrows the Jawas, and surrounds it with a rather loose plotline about the cynical woman learning to love again no matter how many scuzballs she encounters. The plot is non-stop mixture of captures, escapes, fights, and cliche-ridden conversations on such topics as when it’s okay to kill someone. It’s one of those movies that you end up only half-watching because you don’t expect anything really new to happen, and sure enough, your expectations are met. The best thing about it is the stunning Turkish locations. The worst thing about is that sets itself up for a sequel, an act of either utter cynicism or supreme optimism, depending on how you view it. And though I suppose it is possible that someday a sequel could be made, I don’t think anyone is holding their breath for it.

Les lunettes feeriques (1909)

aka X-Ray Glasses
Article 4861 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-2-2015
Directed by Emile Cohl
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Odd trick short

An elderly man is in possession of glasses which show what the wearer is thinking in the lenses. Various people at a party try them on.

There’s no real plot to this short from Emile Cohl; all that happens is that various people try the glasses on, and we then see in the lenses what items they’re thinking of. One is thinking of food, one is thinking of games, one is thinking of money, etc. However, it is interesting to note that Cohl uses a number of different techniques here. The movie is a combination of live-action (the party sequences), abstract animation, traditional animation, stop-motion animation, montage and whatever method he thinks is appropriate to use in displaying the interests and/or obsessions of the party members. It’s pleasantly distracting, but the lack of a plot (or point, for that matter) keeps it from being anything more than that.

Lightning Sketches (1907)

Article 4818 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-10-2015
Directed by J. Stuart Blackton
Featuring J. Stuart Blackton
Country: USA
What it is: Trick short with animation

An artist draws lightning-fast sketches of people and things.

Most of this short is just what it sounds like; it’s an artist making sketches in fast motion. This in itself makes it sound thin in the fantastic content department, but there are a few touches here and there. Occasionally, some of the sketches come to life through the use of animation, and the sheets of paper will sometimes crumple themselves up without noticeable human intervention. It’s a fun if non-exceptional short, but it does strike one sour note for today’s audiences. The copy I saw was on YouTube, and the fact that it starts without a title and with the artist already partway through his first sketch made me wonder if the print was incomplete. After reading the full plot description on IMDB, I now believe the short has been censored; the first two sketches involve the artist transforming a word into a face (the second sketch involves changing “Cohen” into a Jewish caricature), and the first face (of a black caricature) is drawn from a racial epithet which is considered offensive nowadays. I won’t say what the word is, but if he had drawn a four-legged animal that looks like it was wearing a mask, it wouldn’t have been.

Liebe muss Verstanden Sein (1933)

aka Love Has Its Reasons
Article 4787 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-21-2015
Directed by Hans Steinhoff
Featuring Rosi Barsony, Max Gulstorff, Kathe Haack
Country: Germany
What it is: Comedy

When a flighty stenotypist is tasked by her boss to put some money in the bank so he can invest it in an inventor, she flubs the job and loses some of the money. She tries to hunt down her boss, but he has gone out of town. She goes to the hotel where he will be staying in the hopes of catching him, but gets caught up in a series of comic mishaps.

My copy of this German comedy does not come with English dubbing or subtitles, but I did find a couple of plot descriptions to help me along. However, the plot is quite involved, and even though some of the humor is visual, much of it is verbal, and being in a foreign language, much of it escaped me. As a result, I can’t give a definite evaluation of this one. However, I can make a few observations. The presentation seems energetic and fast-paced; if the jokes are decent, this one could be a lot of fun. Also, Rosi Barsony is a lively and vivacious presence, and she’s quite fun to watch. As you may guess, the fantastic content is tied to the inventor; he’s created a robot/automaton/mechanical doll. I am a little disappointed that the plot ends up involving what was by now a pretty old trick; the woman ends up having to take the place of the doll. However, Barsony’s dancing as the doll is wonderful, and the scene where she performs is the definite visual highlight of the movie. It’s always nice when I can find things to enjoy in movies that I can’t otherwise fully appreciate.

The Love of Zero (1927)

Article 4742 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-24-2015
Directed by Robert Florey
Featuring Joseph Marievsky, Tamara Shavrova, Anielka Elter
Country: USA
What it is: Impressionistic short

Zero romances and wins the heart of Beatrix with his trombone playing. However, she is eventually forced to leave him forever, and he must deal with heartbreak and a descent into madness.

If you can imagine a short, partially comic cross between THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and DAUGHTER OF HORROR, you might get an idea of what this experimental collaboration between Robert Florey and William Cameron Menzies is like. The opening crawl claims that the movie was made for only two hundred dollars, and I will say that the movie looks more expensive than that; in fact, this short has more edits than some full-length movies I’ve seen. The scenery is abstract in the extreme, camera tricks abound (including split-screen and multiple exposure) and the feel ranges from coyish whimsicality to the darkly surreal. The movie is delightfully strange and quite enjoyable, both funny and sad. It almost makes you wonder what you could do with two hundred dollars (or whatever its current equivalent would be).